Books: Love in a Court Climate

THE PRINCESS OF CLEVES (210 pp.)—Madame de Lafayette—New Directions ($ 1.50).

Take one distant century—say the 16th—and take it seriously. Add one princely husband, admiring and dull; one bride, beautiful and devout; one young lover, handsome and ardent. Stir the ingredients in a batter of love-at-first-sight and courtly ceremony; cook over a slow fire of virtue, grief and remorse; then sprinkle with fragments of broken hearts. This basic recipe for romance or rubbish is served up cold in Madame de Lafayette's Princess of Cleves.

Like many classics, this work, first published in 1678, has...

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